By Gari Lister
Too many mornings this spring I have found myself waking up and saying, “My back hurts, I have a headache, I’m tired.” And I can’t even count how often I have picked up the phone and vented about something big . . . or something small. My kids refuse to eat their supplements, my youngest throws a fit (she’s 10), my husband eats the last strawberries . . . you name it, I vent, I complain, I whine. Or let me correct that: I vented, I complained, I whined.
I am trying to build new habits. I recently read A Complaint Free Life: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted (by Will Bowen). Yes, it sounds like it should be on Oprah, and in fact it was. But don’t dismiss it as a silly self-help book. The book is full of inspiration (read it!) but is grounded in an incredibly simple concept. Complaining, gossiping and criticizing are negative habits that hurt us and others; they usually don’t help anything and don’t change the underlying facts or conduct. The author quotes Camus: “Our thoughts create our world, our words indicate our thoughts. When we control our words by eradicating complaining, we create our lives with intention and attract what we desire.”
Now I’m not minimizing how incredibly hard it can be to be a mom or a dad to a traumatized kid or a kid with reactive attachment disorder; I know, believe me. And many of us have suffered lousy things, and we all may need to grieve from time to time. This week we’ve seen two awful tragedies that have devastated thousands of people. But it’s also easy for us to soak up negativity from others, including our kids . . . and find that attitude infecting us, even when the immediate frustration isn’t all that terrible. (Secondary PTSD ring any bells?)
So this spring I have taken on the challenge the book presents. Will Bowen asks us to try to eliminate negativity by using a bracelet to help us focus on how often we complain, gossip and criticize. He sells purple bracelets for $1 each, but I’m using a very chic One Direction rubber bracelet (I have a fifth grader).
- Begin to wear [a] bracelet on either wrist.
- When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, move the bracelet to the other wrist and begin again.
- If you hear someone else who is wearing [the] bracelet complain, it’s okay to point out their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must move your bracelet first! Because you’re complaining about their complaining.
- Stay with it. It may take many months to reach 21 consecutive days. The average is 4 to 8 months.
(A Complaint Free World at 3) After two weeks, I can tell you I still move my bracelet several times a day. But the challenge has already helped me reframe a number of my conversations with my kids, and has also helped me stay more optimistic and more focused. I still wish my daughter didn’t scream when I tell her to do homework, and I still get annoyed when someone takes my last strawberries, but when I don’t complain . . . things don’t bother me as much.
If you think you too may have developed a few negative habits along the way, get a bracelet and join me on the 21-day challenge.